Taskmaster series 16: Interviews with the contestants | Julian Clary, Lucy Beaumont, Sam Campbell, Sue Perkins and Susan Wokoma © Channel 4/Avalon

Taskmaster series 16: Interviews with the contestants

Julian Clary, Lucy Beaumont, Sam Campbell, Sue Perkins and Susan Wokoma

Taskmaster's 16th series starts at 9pm tonight on Channel 4. Here the contestants talk about their experiences...

Perkins on Taskmaster

Sue Perkins

Did you enjoy making the show?

I really did. The innate brilliance of the show is that everybody’s brain works differently. Everybody has a different solution to the same problem. I learned that I have no sense of competitiveness, but within five minutes of starting the task I was laughing. Clearly I’m not competitive because I just laughed my way through it. When you come to the studio and watch yourself you think, "What an idiot," because you should have worked out how to do it much sooner. But I don’t care. I had fun.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

I actually did. I learned that I don’t read tasks properly. My attention span is so bad that I go, "Yes, I’ve got that" and I dive into it. There’s no consideration. I’m so speedy in the way that I go into things that actually I don’t stop to think, "Hang on, where’s the detail here? And where’s the important information?" I don’t know how much of that personality trait I can change without medication, but I can imagine it’s very frustrating for other people. I’m never very present. I have a weird brain – but we’ve all got weird brains. That’s the great thing.

Was there any task that was humiliating or embarrassing?

Yes, but I don’t mind looking like a fool. If you mind looking like a fool, you shouldn’t be doing this for a living. There are certain tasks where you look at it and it’s staring you in the face. None of it was broadcastable and it didn’t get me any closer to the answer whatsoever.

You think, "What the f*** are you doing? No one is interested in this. It’s a comedy show." But it’s just how my brain works, which is a weird combination of skating over the top and not listening, and then deep diving into an irrelevant place. It shows my nerdy obsessional side. In my life I like to collect things or become very, very interested in very, very unusual stuff. And the next minute I’ll just be like, "I don’t know where my keys are!"

But hopefully you’ll also see a part of my personality which is child-like. All I want to do is be playful. I’m very scatty, I can’t concentrate for a moment, but I hope I’m well-intentioned.

I think people might be surprised by that childishness, because you do seem very together and cerebral on most of your own shows.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Being book-smart, which I suppose people will think I am, isn’t very helpful in this game. You look at someone like Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is hilarious and very clever, but it’s almost like two worlds colliding. Being book-smart doesn’t allow you to unlock a lot of the tasks. I’m not ashamed to look like an idiot, though. That’s been the biggest change in my life – I felt as a young person that I couldn’t be the prettiest, I couldn’t be the most "normal", I couldn’t be any of the things that society seemed to value above everything else. But I loved books, and I would know things, and I would be nice to people and I wouldn’t bully anyone.

Early on in my television career, I just wanted to be smart and for people to think I wasn’t stupid, but now I don’t care. Sure, if there was a competition about late Renaissance literature or early Gothic, then I might be really up there in the winning position. But this isn’t that, it’s a show about being silly, and that’s okay.

You did very well on a lot of tasks but, as you say, you did very badly on others.

Yes! But that’s fine. I quite like f***ing up and then post-rationalising it. I really enjoyed being in the studio going, "How can I turn this around?", it tested my brain. I love Greg and Alex so much.

Did you know any of your fellow contestants?

I’ve worked with Julian on Just a Minute, and obviously the dynamics have changed because I host rather than being a panellist nowadays. I admire him hugely. Certainly, on that show, he’s dazzling: one of the all-time greats. I love him. He’s a very, very clever man. He’s very laconic and I think his energy on Taskmaster has been lovely, because there are so many fizzy, bubbly folk on this, you need a different texture, so I’ve really enjoyed his sardonic banter. He acts like it’s all beneath him, which is very funny. He brings a grumpy, paternal, elder statesman vibe to the thing, which I think you need.

I’ve met Lucy before, quite a while ago. I think she did a pilot with me very early on in her career. It takes a very special person to be that singular that early on. She’s this beautiful, rare, curious flower, and I want to be in the garden staring at it with a degree of awe and reverence. It’s a joy to behold. Every time she said something a bit mad, there were at least thirty questions I wanted to ask her about it, but we never had time, and also that’s not my role. But I’m fascinated. I think her brain is beautiful. Sometimes people change as they get older, but she’s always been exactly the same; she came out of the box just doing her own thing. If it’s Lucy’s world, I am very happy to live in it.

Sam, I didn’t know at all. He was a fan of the show, so I think he really thought about it. He’s a very smart, switched-on dude. And again, he ploughs his own furrow. He’s got so much confidence in who he is and how he thinks. I was in awe of it, really.

As for Susan, from the get-go, I thought, "Oh! I love you. I think you’re great." I’ve enjoyed everything she’s done, and she just seemed like a really cool person. She’s got great vibes. We hugged when we first met, and that was it. We’ll go and see Arsenal Ladies footy matches together and hopefully will remain friends for a long time. I’ve got such love and respect for her. She’s a super cool human. She’s a very smart, caring person. I think we synced because we want to laugh all the time and we’re both very child-like. There was one moment with her where I have very rarely laughed and felt such child-like joy. I was on my hands and knees paralysed with laughter. We couldn’t move, we couldn’t think. We were overtaken by pure laughter. It was just wonderful.

I can’t say what I was within the group, but they were all so distinct and magnificent. I just felt really lucky to be around them. They’re good folk. It was a real pleasure to play with them.

Your relationship with Susan has been one of the great joys of the show

I’ve been really lucky. I work in a partnership [with Mel Giedroyc] that is absolutely predicated on love, and to have a spark of that with somebody else was really joyful. Susan’s so good at inhabiting physical comedy, or using her body to describe and to evoke something, and I’m so useless at that, but I can talk a lot. I won’t stop, and I’ll have a billion words at my disposal. We’re different but it works.

Talking of Mel, she has done Taskmaster. Did you ask her for advice?

I did, actually. I said, "Should I do it?" She went, "Yes" and that was it. I’m a fan of the show, so I knew that it was about the chemistry between the contestants. There are stand-out performances, yes, but it all hinges on the chemistry. I’m at an age now where I don’t really have the energy to try to be anybody but who I am. If I ask Mel for advice, she just says, "Be yourself, everyone else is taken."  So that was my plan. To be resolutely, and quite sh*t-ly, myself.

You say you weren’t competitive. Were any of the other contestants?

No, no one really cared. I think most of us wanted not to be last but as long as it was funny, it was okay. There was no edge. And I think what’s interesting is everyone’s got an individual take: there’s sardonic comedy, there’s whimsy, surrealism, physical, cerebral, so there’s a space for everybody. I was quiet at first until I worked out who everybody was. Everyone was reserved at first, but it ended up being sensational. I was really invested in Susan winning one of the tasks. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I just hope I’m funny. I hope I’m not letting the Giedroyc legacy down.

What did you make of Greg and Alex?

I’m madly in love with both of them. Genuinely, madly in love. I think it’s an exercise in on-screen chemistry perfection. It’s the old schtick of the domineering bullying guy who dominates the other but actually needs him. They need each other. So there’s this fake assault and battery line going on, when actually, underneath it, it’s so fraternal and delicious. And they make each other laugh. I love them a lot. I think they’re very, very special. And for all Greg’s posturing and denigration, he’s got the biggest heart. Genuinely, I’m in love with them both and I don’t even care who knows it.

Clary on Taskmaster

Julian Clary

What made you sign up to Taskmaster?

It’s right up my street because it’s relentlessly silly. You never get bored doing it because you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s very clever. Even on studio days, we didn’t know what tasks they were going to show. It’s been fascinating. I did Big Brother once, and you get conditioned in Big Brother after three weeks, to the extent that when I came out I didn’t know how to cross the road without being told.

Taskmaster was a bit like that because all you want to do is please Greg. It all becomes about that. Although it’s trivial, that master-slave relationship does get to you in the end. And when you make him smile or laugh, it’s such a thrill. In the prize task you never know whether your gift is going to please him or not. It’s like when you’re dating someone. There’s a lot of jeopardy involved.

Did you have any tactics for trying to please him?

No, because I hadn’t watched it that closely. I was trying to stick to the brief, but in some tasks, people were being very clever by interpreting it in a surreal way. I wish I’d thought of that. I was just getting it done.

If you hadn’t watched Taskmaster closely before doing it, did you know what you were getting into?

I did, but I didn’t realise how popular it is. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone I was doing it, but I brought it up in conversations, and what I realised was that young people particularly love it. They absolutely love it, and they watch it in different countries. It was nice to be a part of that and it was nice to be on such a well-run show, because they’ve been doing it for a while so it’s ever so smooth and comfortable. And the people on production are nice people, which is unusual in television.

Did you speak to any Taskmaster alumni?

Yes, I phoned Jo Brand when I was offered it because she’d just done it. I said, "Is it the sort of thing I’d enjoy?" and she was very encouraging. She said, "Yes, because you think on your feet, and because there are so many comedians there, there’s no pressure on you to be funny because everyone gets to be funny." I didn’t feel competitive about it.

None of you seemed all that competitive compared to previous years.

No, quite. I have watched a few series with these young bucks, trying to bump everyone out of the way. It’s funny, but hopefully we are still funny in a different way. We’re all in the same boat and I’m kind of amused by everyone, including people I didn’t know that much about. Lucy Beaumont is so funny, and Sam has a very interesting mind. It’s stimulating to be around people who have got a different take on things.

But you knew Sue before?

Yes, I knew Sue. We did Just A Minute together. She was very sharp and clever with the tasks in this. Normally, comedians, we’re always on our own. I tour on my own, it’s just me and my tour manager, so it’s really delightful to be with people on this, and being with funny people, over a long period of time. You get to know how they work and what might be their bit and you all have space to be fun in different ways.

How did you react to the tasks? Some people panic when they first open them up.

Oh, I didn’t have that. My problem is not being bored, exactly, but being, "For God’s sake" when I first read it. Being unenthusiastic, shall we say. Some of the tasks were so cryptic, almost nerdy and designed to confuse you.

Tell me about your relationship with Alex. Was he helpful, at all, during the tasks?

It took me a few days to work out, "Who is this person?" because he doesn’t communicate much when you’re doing tasks. He’s quite circumspect. Putting someone down is a comic device I’ve used often over the years and he was the only person there, so that’s what I ended up doing.

You don’t get much from him, but he’s very scrupulous and fair. He was just always there in the corner, usually behind the camera with his clipboard. It’s a strange role he has because he’s the clever one, but he’s also the inferior one compared to Greg. It took me a while to work that out. But I did like him, and after we’d finished a task, if I said, "That was terrible," he’d say, "Oh, you’d be surprised" so you’d hope that you hadn’t done as badly as you thought, which was quite nice. But it was so relentless – task after task, day after day – so it became a way of life. He was a constant presence during these task days.

I very much enjoyed your constant put-downs of Alex.

Well, I’m naturally a bit dour. I was mortified sometimes when Greg said, "Oh, you look bored" because that’s just my way. I thought it was just because I was older and cynical but actually, thinking about it, I was like this as a child. It’s just the way I am.

And how did you get on with Greg?

It’s unusual for me to want to please someone, but I’ve been a bit puppy-dog with him. He’s very enigmatic, and everyone’s looking at him all the time. He has a very well-developed – I was going to say inner child, because he’s very giggly and childish – but he’s really an alpha male. I should imagine he’s in charge wherever he goes, whatever he does. I might be wrong but I can imagine him going into a shop and ordering a sandwich and being, "This is what I want and give it to me now." So I hated disappointing him. I hated it when he got a bit dismissive. It’s mortifying, and you feel slightly jealous if he’s praising young Sam, you know?

People often say being on Taskmaster brings out your inner childishness.

Yes, it does. It’s a bit like being a kid, but it’s also a bit like being a wife in one of these marriages where they have multiple partners. You want to be the one chosen to give him his favours.

How do you describe the relationship between Greg and Alex?

Like a lot of marriages, it’s all different things mixed up, isn’t it? So there’s obviously affection, and there’s a very deep knowledge of each other. And it’s funny because you think Greg’s always the one in charge, but then you know that Alex is the one behind the tasks, so they subvert that. It’s complicated, just like proper relationships are. And it’s not at all like Morecambe and Wise, or any of these other partnerships. It’s a million miles away from that, which is unique, really.

Did you have any moments where you go, "I could have done that so much better"?

Yes, you do. I was really pleased with all my prizes and there were a couple I thought were perfect for the brief. But it all depends on what mood Greg’s in. You think, "Please like it" and he may well heap praise on you but then he likes the next person’s gift more and the next one more.

Have you learned anything about yourself?

Yes, I suppose I have. I’ve learned that sometimes it pays off to think about things more and not be so impulsive. I’ve always had this idea that your first thought is probably the best one, and it often is. In a pub quiz, the first thing that pops into your mind is usually the right one but in this, lateral thinking would sometimes have been a good idea. I can’t change the way I am, but you do think, "Gosh, how long did it take Sam to think of that?"

Have you got anything coming up that you can talk about?

I’m playing Seaman Smee in panto at the Palladium with Jennifer Saunders, which will be lovely. I’m a big fan of hers and I loved working with Dawn, so I’m sure I will love working with Jennifer. I'll be touring a brand new stand-up show next spring. It's called 'A Fistful Of Clary' and it has a western theme... it was only a matter of time before I eased myself into some chaps. I'll also be playing Herod in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar this autumn. I'm looking forward to presenting my crazed, queer, imperious King Herod. I'm thinking Putin meets Cleopatra with a hint of Biggins.

Beaumont on Taskmaster

Lucy Beaumont

What made you sign up to Taskmaster?

The money, really. It’s quite good money. And I must admit, I’ve wanted to do it for ages. I’ve been around so many groups of comics and they sit and talk about their time on Taskmaster, and everyone presumed I’d done it already to be honest. But, no.

A lot of fans predicted you would be in it this year.

I saw a few people online have thought that, yes. But they’ve never asked me before. I was starting to get p***ed off. This is series 49 or something and you think, "When?" so I’m glad to have done it.

Do you know people who have done it before?

Every single person. And then when you start seeing the people who started years after you, you’re like, "Why are they on it?" because although it has a cult following with fans, it has a cult following with comedians as well. It’s like you’ve got a stripe on your name if you do it. There are certain shows that comics like, and Would I Lie To You?, Have I Got News for You and this are all up there.

Did you ask anyone for advice when you knew you were doing it?

No. When I do jobs, I tend not to prepare, watch the show or get advice. I find it’s better to go in not really knowing what you’re doing or what day it is. It’s worked so far, so I’m going to carry on like that. But I have watched Taskmaster because Jon [Richardson, Lucy’s husband] was on the second series.

What did he say to you when you told him you were going on the show?

He said, "Haven’t you already done it?" He did then try to give me advice, but I looked at him and said, "I don’t need your advice." The advice was to really think about your prize because you open the show with it. But I decided not to do that.

Could you tell me about your best prize?

It’s an alien device from my mum. She had something in her ear for two years and six months, and they didn’t know what it was. It was driving her mad because she kept getting ear infections. She knew something was lodged in it. I took her to a Harley Street ear doctor, and he said never in his career had he seen anything like it. The obvious thing was that it must be impacted wax. And he said, "Never have I not been able to remove impacted wax. But this is so lodged, I can’t." But we think he must have dislodged it a little bit because I was at her house a while later and she got up and it fell out. And it was metallic. The cat licked it and disappeared. She never saw the cat again. There were UFOs flying around her house that week, so that might have had something to do with it.

Has Taskmaster been any different from what you expected?

I can tell now, when I watch, which shows have got a nice atmosphere, and it’s so conducive to making a good show. On this, from day one doing the tasks, they were family. I love it when you go on a set, and there’s no hierarchy with the crew. It doesn’t matter if you make the tea or you’re the director, everyone sits together, eats together, and everyone’s treated with respect. I think that really helps to shine through, because you would think everything is like that, but it’s not. You do some jobs and you’re like… I don’t know what it is, but there’s tension, or something’s gone on, someone’s stressed and not talking to people very nicely, and stuff like that. And for comedy, you pick up on that and it can affect it.

There’s definitely a positive energy in the studio.

It’s all from Greg and Alex, it’s the synergy between them. It sounds corny, but they are really lovely guys. It’s so clever, because they set the show, and they just know what they’re doing now, keeping that energy. It’s lovely. There’s a lateral side, and there’s a surreal, subversive side, and there’s a really amazing neurodivergent community online who feel like it’s theirs, and it’s connected neurodivergent young people from around the world. It’s been really amazing to see that from the inside.

It’s a really special show. It brings the child out in you, so you get to see that in other people too. I did a play years ago called Flint Street Nativity that was a bit like that, where we all played seven-year-olds doing an activity, then in the last scene, you played their parents. It felt a bit like that. Sometimes it’s freeing to be allowed to play. I think everyone should be able to experience that. There should be a Taskmaster theme park.

Talking about the other contestants, you all seemed to get on really well. Did you know any of them beforehand?

I’d worked with Sue, and that’s it. They’re so lovely. I feel like Sam could be my brother. Sometimes we even thought the same things.

Greg said you were the two weird ones.

Two people like us must never be allowed to procreate. It would be like inbreeding, but you’d be passing on weirdness. It must be a bit like that if you do I’m A Celebrity, or something like that where you become a little family because you do so many episodes together. But it was lovely, and really nice.

What was your worst task?

The one where you had to look for stuff. I feel like I did my best at every task, but I really didn’t like that one. I spend all of my life looking for things. I can’t get out of the house for trying to look constantly for my cash card and all of that. I find it really stressful. You can tell the ones who don’t lose things because they’re like, "Yeah, let’s go and find it!" I’m like, "Please don’t make me find stuff."

Did you enjoy the rest of the tasks?

Yes, they’ve been brilliant. I’ve really enjoyed them. It’s weird watching them back in the studio though because you do forget what you did. It turns out I was doing lunges in the kitchen.

Have you learned anything about yourself?

No. I knew I wasn’t normal. I haven’t learned anything.

There was one task where you got confused about the difference between ten minutes and ten seconds. Are you embarrassed about that?

People who know me well say, "I don’t know how you’ve survived this long." Genuinely. I’m forty next year, and they’re like, "We just thought you were going to walk into a road one day." I’m just lucky I’ve got better and not worse. Can you imagine? People just have to look after me. I’ve just wandered around, not knowing what I was doing. I’ve done well to make it this far, to be honest.

So you’re perfectly happy for everyone to see the real you?

I can’t mask. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to be serious. That doesn’t work. Something always happens to blow my cover.

You seemed to really enjoy yourself though.

Yes, but I forgot I was in competition with other people. Because you do the tasks alone, you do so many alone, and then when I had to meet the others for a group tasks, I was like, "Oh, I forgot there were other people involved." Because in the solo ones Alex kept saying "against the other contestants" and I was like, "Oh, there’s other people?"

You don’t really see them at all until you’re in the studio, to be fair.

No, but we’ve got a really good team. They are really, really lovely people. You don’t realise that having three women, like on this, is really unusual. If I’d done this a few years ago people would be going, "Oh, there are three women" but now it’s like, "Yes, that’s all right. There are three women." I’ve waited twelve years to do a show where women are in the majority. It’s like, "Look, it works! You can sometimes have fewer men!" It’s not a problem. It feels like the first time ever that no one is like, "Oh, there’s three women…" It’s like, "Finally, we’re here."

But it’s still not normal on any other show, and that’s mental. I was doing this, and then I went to do Have I Got News for You and I was the only woman. It was like, "Oh, this is weird" because it doesn’t represent the population, does it? There are now just as many women as men doing comedy.

There are no egos and no competition on Taskmaster. There’s no macho energy or two men in competition with each other. There’s a place for that, and that’s not a criticism of shows with men because sometimes that’s funny and stuff, but this is so nice. It feels sillier, you know?

Tell me a bit about your relationship with Alex.

Alex is the nicest guy ever, but I can’t work out if I scared him. A lot of comics really should have been teachers, or they were teachers. Alex has a teacher quality: like you really want to do well for him, but you’re constantly letting him down. It feels like he wants you to find the intelligent thing, but he would never say anything when you don’t. That’s how the show feels. Like there’s always a clever way of doing it but it’s just out of reach. There might be a play on words and he would be so delighted if you got it, but you just don’t.

What about Greg?

I thought he would be grumpier, and a bit more of a Taskmaster, but he has got a softer side that I didn’t realise he had. I think he softened through the series. If I remember the early ones, I feel he was a bit more strict. But he’s too tall for me to have any sort of dynamic or relationship with. It’s like working with a pillar or a statue. He’s physically intimidating.

What do you make of Greg and Alex’s relationship?

They’re an odd couple. If you told me that they’d had sex, I would believe that. There’s like a submissive / dominant thing there. It’s fascinating because it just works.

Wokoma on Taskmaster

Susan Wokoma

Why did you want to sign up for Taskmaster?

When I was invited I was so flattered, but then the fear started. I wasn’t going to do it because I thought, "I’m not a stand-up." The only place I’ve ever done stand-up is on The Guilty Feminist podcast but that’s just a five-minute go at it, and it’s very anecdotal. My co-host Deborah Frances-White has always said that I’ve done enough of those that I’ve got an Edinburgh hour! But I haven’t been out on the road or anything, nothing like Julian Clary. So I was scared but I just thought, "I really want to do the tasks. I’ll think about everything else later but I really want to walk into a room and have no idea what’s about to happen." So that was a thing.

I wanted to do it because I get to be a kid. That’s why I look like a child on the show. I was like, "What’s the most childish item of clothing I can muster in a couple of days?" The whole thing was fun. Turning up dressed like that, about to do something you have no idea about. It was the most glorious few days.

Did you get any advice from anybody beforehand?

I do know a few people who’ve done it. I spoke to Daisy May Cooper about it. I was working with Aisling Bea at the time, and she did early Taskmaster, I spoke to Mawaan Rizwan about it, and they all said, "Everybody who works on it is so lovely." I was like, "Is it going to be super competitive?" but there’s no space for that because it’s so stupid.

Sue Perkins touched on it when she said, "There’s something about Greg taking the piss out of you that’s really nice." He said to me, "You’ve had two points for that, and you can thank me for it." I just went, "I will. Thank you, sir." And I just thought, "I need to speak to my therapist about this."

He's a lot of people’s weird secret crush.

I never understood that before. I was like, "Everyone grow up. He’s just tall. Everyone calm down." But since getting the s**t ripped out of me over the prizes, I’m like, "Yeah. Lean into it, man."

Tell me about your relationship with Alex during the tasks.

He’s not helpful. He’s low-key condescending as well: he’ll just blink at you or laugh in the corner. The number of times I caught him just shaking his head!

No, he’s great. He’s so clever. Oftentimes I’d walk in like, "You’ve got children. You’ve got things to do. And you have time to come up with these really intricate tasks?" He’s great. I sometimes looked at him and felt the opposite of Julian’s absolutely brilliant contempt. I just felt sorry for him.

Also, you know if you humiliate Alex, you’re always going to make Greg happy.

Exactly. And that was the thing that I looked for.

And what do you make of their relationship?

Just pseudo-sexual, emotional torture, lots of heightism. They’re so peculiar. I love the moments where Greg gets really into it. I love it. They were such children. I miss their banter.

Greg came up with a new nickname for you: RADA, because you kept mentioning being a trained actress.

I know! I realised that over a couple of days when he said RADA few times. I was like, "Oh, s**t. That’s what it is. Cool." The thing is, in real life, I barely mention I’m an actor at all. But there was something about this process that just made me go, "What am I doing? I trained for real, and now here I am." It’s so funny. When you have those situations where you have a third eye on yourself, and if you’re doing something really stupid I find it funny to be like, "I’m a 35-year-old woman!" and then carry on. It’s the same sort of thing.

Did you know any of the other contestants?

No, obviously I knew of them, but I’d never met anybody. I bonded with Sue because we share a name. That’s how unpopular that stupid name is, that the moment that you meet somebody, you’re like, "My friend!" It was so stupid. I love Sue. We laughed constantly and then we’d go inside our little dressing room, which is when we’re meant to relax and there was loads more laughing and it was just so great.

But it was awesome to meet everybody. They’re a really sweet bunch. A mad bunch. Plenty of times I’ve looked at Sam and Lucy, just like, "What?" It’s so funny. Also, when I laugh a lot, I get hiccups quite badly, and there’s always a point in the recordings where I’m in a corner hiccupping because they’ve said something weird. But they were a lovely gang. And Lucy! She has a list of things that she doesn’t like, like ice cubes or like, "I don’t like finding things." "Sorry"? It did feel like someone just went online and did a cast generator. We’re all so different. I love it, though. I really do.

Going back to Sue. Have you got plans to go on holiday together?

Listen, we’ve swapped numbers. We’ve been texting each other. There was one particular day where we did text each other afterwards and said, "That was the best time of my life." That probably went on for days. But we could not stop laughing.

A couple of weeks later, we bumped into each other at an awards and it was one of those things where we were really hugging and everyone was like, "How do you know each other?" and we’re like, "We can’t say" because our names hadn’t been announced. I love that woman. I hope we’ll be friends forever. All of them. All four of them. They’re so brilliant.

Were you competitive

No! That was also one of the reasons why I nearly didn’t do it because I don’t really do competitiveness. It’s been a problem and that’s not because I’m an angel. – it’s because I do not back myself, not even playing Connect Four. But sometimes you’ve got to fight for yourself, and that’s what Greg wants. And obviously, as I’ve established, all I live for is what Greg wants. I think he likes it when we defend ourselves. But there was no obvious competitiveness. And also, when you watch it, the scoreboard does change so dramatically, like you can be riding high, and the next show you’re at the bottom.

What have you learned about yourself?

Do you know what? Before I did the show, I felt that I was quite together, sorted. A calm, logical person. In my friendship group, I’m known as the smart one who can give really good advice, a real problem-solver, as well as being a good-time gal. But when I watched this, I was like, "Who the hell is that?" and "Can we put her down? Why am I weeping? Why am I running? Why am I screaming? Why am I strutting at one point?

I was like, "Who’s that?". I don’t know who I am. And I don’t know whether that’s my real essence, or whether problem-solving calm Susan is my essence and I’ve just unleashed a playfulness that’s been dormant for a bit. It’s probably that.

I’ve genuinely seen some of my actions and thought, "I didn’t know that was still there. That’s really nice to know." It’s been a tough few years for the world collectively, and it’s so lovely that I can still be excited about stupid things.

What were your favourite tasks?

I loved the creative tasks. I was so cocky though. "A sleeping task? I’ve got this. I’ve slept loads. I’ve done the research." So yes, I was cocky about that.

Do you think this is going to take your career in a different direction?

Oh, yes, the direction of the bin. There was one particular task that, when I finished it, I walked out of the room like, "I don’t think I’m ever going to win a BAFTA now." There’s no performance in any category that would redeem me after something that I chose to do like that. It’s humiliating, and I chose to do it. No one told me to do it. I chose it. I don’t know how it’s going to change how I’m cast. Luckily, I’m writing my own stuff so hopefully I can revive my career after a few years’ hiatus.

What else have you got coming up?

I’m doing a play in Chichester, which is written by Deborah Frances-White, and that’s with Greg Wise and Alexandra Roach called Never Have I Ever. It’s a comedy, so that’s going to be fun. Then I’ll be shooting my directorial debut, a film called Three Weeks, which I’ll hopefully be doing in November, which I’ll be directing and starring in. So that’s the big bastard. That and Taskmaster.

Campbell on Taskmaster

Sam Campbell

Why did you sign up to Taskmaster?

I don’t know. I didn’t know what it was. I’ve not been allowed to watch it because of my conservatorship.

So why did you say yes?

I was forced to by my management company. It’s almost military service, you have to do it.

Did you know anyone else who’d done it previously?

No. I know some people who did Taskmaster Zimbabwe but never this one. It’s good. It’s the best one.

The Australian one – is amazing.

Yes, that one’s not good. It’s not a quality product. It’s just nasty stuff. Nasty business. Wretched.

Had you met any of your fellow contestants before?

I’d seen some of their stuff. And they’re very different to their public personas. Just cruel, calculating people.

Tell me about your approach to these tasks. Did you have a strategy?

Yes, but not in a good way. I was living at the house, up in the attic.

Why did you decide to live there?

I just needed shelter. It was good, but there was a snake in there.

What kind?

A carpet snake. Oh, wait. You don’t have carpet snakes here.

We have grass snakes.

Okay, yes. Sorry. I don’t know. There was something up there that kept trying to bite me.

Did you plan for any of the tasks?

Well, I did all of them, but then they said they lost the footage. So, on the day of the first record, I had to do all of them again. They didn’t want me to remember the ones I’d done so they got Sue Perkins to drop a brick on my head so I’d forget.

So this is like a massive conspiracy, basically.

Paranoia is just reality in finer detail.

Did you have any kind of strategy for the tasks?

I found it distracting. Alex Horne was often taking phone calls from a mysterious woman throughout. He seemed to be kind of phoning it in. He was throwing around lots of statements like, "I’ve got a lot of money." I barely spoke to the guy.

So he wasn’t any help to you?

Not really. He’s off doing his own thing. Making deals and that sort of thing.

What do you think of Greg?

We didn’t get to meet him. He films all his stuff afterwards, and they put it in.

Like VFX?

Yes. At this point, it’s just a machine.

Was that disappointing for you?

I guess so, yes. It’s hard. I think a lot of stuff like that is happening at the moment. Social contracts being broken.

You and Lucy seemed to form a bit of a bond for living on a different planet compared to the others.

I would not want to be from that planet. She is a nasty person. She is Mean with a capital M. Wickedly intelligent. Very crafty. I would use the word ‘sinister’.

Are you trying to say you’re the normal one?

No, there’s something wrong with me. I was dropped on the head. As an adult.

Who dropped you?

I couldn’t tell. They were wearing a kind of bird mask.

But you were normal up to that point?

Apparently. But I can’t remember my life up until a few weeks ago.

Okay, so you don’t even know whether you were a comic. And then suddenly, you find yourself in Edinburgh like on stage in front of all these people.

Pretty much, yes.

Are you enjoying it?

No, I feel really confused. I feel like an experiment.

Do you know who your friends or family are?

I’ve been seeing messages on magazine covers and newspapers and signs. I’m working on some stuff. I’d like to find out who I am.

On one of the tasks you bribed an eight-year-old with £100. Do you feel okay about that?

I think child bribes are wrong.

So you regret it?

I just thought other people would try that tactic. Do you think it reflects poorly on me?

A little bit.

I guess. Yes. I mean, she’s not really a child. She’s an animatronic.

Did she keep the £100?

I think they’re going to give it to the family. They said they would. Maybe in a trust fund or something. An animatronic trust fund.

How competitive or not did you feel about the show?

I just wanted to keep a low profile.

But I thought we were trying to advertise yourself to the people that have lost you.

That’s such a good point. I’ve got twelve birthmarks, which I could describe. They’re all in different shapes. One’s quite long. One is near my ear, and the rest are on my legs. So if you know someone with those, give us a buzz.

What have you got lined up after Taskmaster?

Career-wise? I don’t know if I’m supposed to ... I guess I can talk about it. I’m going to be hosting a new show. Basically, you know after the rain when you see a worm? We are returning them to safety so it doesn’t end up covered in ants or something.

How long is the programme?

Hour-long episodes.

Episodes, plural?


What else happens?

We find the worms, we helicopter down. I’ve got to pick up the worm and show it to the camera. But I don’t kiss the worm or anything like that.

Because that would be weird.

No, it’d be wrong. And I just say gently to him, "See you later. Run. Return from whence you came." Oh, it’s not one worm per episode, by the way. There are two.

I’m going to regret asking this, but what’s it called?



It’s called Hey.

That sounds … really good.

Yes. Yes, it’s on a new channel. It’s called Ryan. Ryan TV. I’m working on an album as well. It’s me singing all the national anthems of countries that don’t exist anymore. Just so people don’t forget them.

Like where?


That still exists.

Does it? Okay. We’re going to have to change that track. That was going to be the lead single.

It’s called Myanmar now, to be fair.

Oh, really? I’ll check.

Thanks, Sam.

Thanks for your advice.

• Taskmaster series 16 starts at 9pm tonight on Channel 4. Interviews courtesy of programme-makers Avalon

Published: 21 Sep 2023

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